Costa pips favourites to win world title

By Julien Pretot

FLORENCE, Italy (Reuters) - Portuguese Rui Costa kept his composure in a tense finale to upset the favourites and win the cycling world championships road race following a series of crashes and persistent rain on Sunday.

After sitting behind and refusing to take turns at the front, Costa made his move some 1.5 kms from the finish to bridge the gap with Joaquim Rodriguez and beat the Spaniard in a sprint finish to become the first Portuguese to win the event.

Another Spaniard, Alejandro Valverde, took third place for his fifth podium at the event although he has never won the coveted rainbow jersey after a poor tactical choice possibly cost Rodriguez the win.

"My first concern was to stay safe because there was a lot of rain and make to the finish in one piece but in the end, when we were only a small group left in front I thought I had a chance," Costa told a news conference.

"I stayed behind Rodriguez (ahead of the final sprint), played a tactical game and I was hoping that my legs would not fail me."

Home favourite Vincenzo Nibali, who launched the decisive attack in the Fiesole climb despite being one of several riders to crash during the 272.3 kms race, had to settle for fourth.

The move left one-day race specialists Fabian Cancellara of Switzerland, Peter Sagan of Slovakia and defending champion Philippe Gilbert of Belgium stuck on the tarmac on the final of 10 laps on a 16.6 kms circuit.

MULTIPLE CRASHES

About half of the peloton had already abandoned midway through the race and the whole British team had dropped out with five laps to go on a woeful day for Tour de France champion Chris Froome and his team mates.

Only 61 riders of the 208 on the start list finished.

"It was carnage out there. When you got into that second half of the peloton there were crashes everywhere," said Briton Geraint Thomas.

"I saw at least five or six big crashes. As soon as that happens people lose the wheel on the climb and then you're destined to get dropped."

Multiple crashes and the Italian team's pace at the front split the peloton but Sagan, Cancellara and Gilbert held on until Nibali attacked. He was followed by Rodriguez, Valverde, Costa and Colombia's Rigoberto Uran, who was ruled out of contention when he crashed in a descent.

Rodriguez was the most active rider, attacking relentlessly but his moves were covered by Nibali, who however could not follow the Spaniard's acceleration some three kms from the line on drying roads.

Costa, who served a five-month doping suspension in 2010 after taking a contaminated food supplement, stayed on the wheels of Valverde and Nibali, declining to take turns in the chase when prompted by the Giro d'Italia champion.

Costa, who this year won a Tour de France stage at Le Grand Bornand in gruelling weather conditions, left no chance to Rodriguez.

"I tried to play with his nerves but once he had caught me I knew it was over because I was so tired," said Rodriguez, who could not understand why Valverde failed to cover Costa's attack.

Former world champion Cadel Evans of Australia, as well as Ireland's Dan Martin and Vuelta winner Chris Horner of the United States. pulled out after being involved in crashes.

Next year's world championships will be held in Ponferrada, Spain. (Editing by Clare Fallon, Alison Wildey and John Mehaffey)

Matches

MORE TOP STORIES TODAY

Royal test for Kings

Royal test for Kings

Preview — Clash of philosophies between Australia-centric teams More »

Duminy steals first win for Delhi

Duminy steals first win for Delhi

Furious fifties by Duminy and Dinesh Karthik end a long losing streak for the Daredevils. More »

AB, Parthiv seal Bangalore's second win

AB, Parthiv seal Bangalore's second win

Royal Challengers overcame a stutter to cruise to the small target they were set by Mumbai Indians. More »

‘Felt like helpless minority’

‘Felt like helpless minority’

Former BCCI treasurer Ajay Shirke says emotions got the better of the Srinivasan and he tried to oversimplify things by calling Meiyappan an “enthusia… More »

Glenn Maxwell carves his parallel universe

Glenn Maxwell carves his parallel universe

Glenn Maxwell seems to project an icy disdain when at the crease. Match situations rarely faze him and the bubble in which he plays excludes everyone … More »

No way back for Pietersen: ECB

No way back for Pietersen: ECB

Kevin Pietersen's hopes of reviving his international career appeared to end Saturday when ECB managing director Paul Downton said there was 'no way back'… More »

Srinivasan can attend BCCI meeting

Srinivasan can attend BCCI meeting

His status as president of TNCA makes him eligible to attend the Working Committee meeting on Sunday. More »

The world record that nearly wasn't

The world record that nearly wasn't

Twenty years ago this week, Brian Lara became Test cricket's highest scorer, but he almost didn't make it. More »

Moores gets second stint as coach

Moores gets second stint as coach

In a two-year spell from 2007 to 2009, the 51-year-old Moores led England in seven Test series. More »

BCCI is not anybody’s property — Dalmiya

BCCI is not anybody’s property — Dalmiya

Dalmiya feels that Srinivasan’s ‘power hungry’ attitude isn’t helping matters. More »

Tough for bowlers: Saeed Ajmal

Tough for bowlers: Saeed Ajmal

The 36-year-old believes the T20 format and rule changes in 50-over matches have made a real difference. More »

Bangladesh senior players to see shrink

Bangladesh senior players to see shrink

Bangladesh's senior players will have three sessions with a psychological skill development coach later this month More »

KP ridicules idea of day-night Tests

KP ridicules idea of day-night Tests

Kevin Pietersen has ridiculed the idea of day-night Test cricket, saying the game would be so different to proper Test cricket that we will need a whole… More »

Rajasthan edge low-scoring thriller

Rajasthan edge low-scoring thriller

The bowlers restricted Hyderabad to 133 for 6 before Rahane and Binny took Rajasthan over the line. More »

BCCI members want independent probe

BCCI members want independent probe

The board members are realising after the Supreme Court's observations that something has to be done — IS Bindra More »

Maxwell blitz takes Punjab home

Maxwell blitz takes Punjab home

The Kings XI batsman blasted a 43-ball 95 to help his team pull off a massive chase against Chennai Super Kings. More »

'BCCI lacks leaders to take on Srini'

'BCCI lacks leaders to take on Srini'

Two former BCCI presidents, Shashank Manohar and Jagmohan Dalmiya, have reacted strongly to the news of the BCCI calling an emergent meeting on Sunday… More »

Delhi look for first points against confident Kolkata

Delhi look for first points against confident Kolkata

Preview — The threat of Sunil Narine looms large again. More »

Bangalore vs Mumbai: A battle of the big-hitters

Bangalore vs Mumbai: A battle of the big-hitters

Preview — Given the firepower in both line-ups, Dubai crowd may see another high-scorer More »

Yuvraj tees off to Sharjah's delight

Yuvraj tees off to Sharjah's delight

Yuvraj Singh was hardly convincing to begin with against Delhi, but a big dose of crowd support and a helping of poor bowling meant he had the opportunity… More »

Stressed Trott stands down again

Stressed Trott stands down again

The England and Wales Cricket Board (ECB) on Friday confirmed that batsman Jonathan Trott is to take another break from all cricket with immediate eff… More »

PCB starts another coach hunt

PCB starts another coach hunt

The PCB has decided to not extend the contracts of head coach Moin Khan, fielding coach Shoaib Mohammad and batting consultant Zaheer Abbas, and has invited… More »

Fiery star Stokes bids to curb his temper

Fiery star Stokes bids to curb his temper

England all-rounder Ben Stokes admits he must keep his anger under control if he is to end his international exile. More »

Bangalore's arsenal blazes to victory

Bangalore's arsenal blazes to victory

Yuvraj Singh was back to his best in his first match for Royal Challengers Bangalore. More »